Teen Dating Violence

Teen Dating Violence Guest Blogger – President and CEO of PADV, Nancy Friauf

I’ve had the pleasure and honor (and sometimes unnerving stress) of raising two daughters. I’m delighted to say they are successful, happy adults making a difference in the world.  While going through their teenage years, I worried about all kinds of things – would they be successful in school, stay away from drugs and the wrong crowd, learn to drive without all of us losing our sanity, make it home safe every day? My husband and I set pretty tough limits; one of my daughters even complained that I didn’t trust her. My response was that I absolutely trusted her, but I worried about everyone around her.

I was fortunate to have gained knowledge and experience from a career fighting against violence, sexual assault and child abuse. I had seen too many examples of people taking advantage of goodness, trust, youth, love and innocence, and I was determined to protect my daughters from the evils of the world.

As they’ve become adults and told me some of the difficult encounters they experienced growing up, I’ve realized two things. One, it’s hard if not impossible to completely protect your children and two, your children will experience challenges and hurt they may never tell you about.  So what can parents do?

My number one answer is “Talk to your kids!” Start talking to them when they’re young about boundaries, respect, personal rights, safety and self-worth. Tell them no one has the right to hit them, call them names or ridicule them.  As they get older, talk to them about what healthy relationships look like: honest conversations, disagreements without fighting or blaming, the freedom to spend time together and apart, mutual respect for each other’s strengths, and a mutual understanding and tolerance for each other’s shortcomings. 

Let your children know they can always talk to you about their feelings, questions, worries and confusions.  When they do come to you, respond with love, understanding, concern and the opportunity to explore solutions together. If the situation is bigger than you’re able to handle, work with your teen to find outside resources and support.  While these steps won’t eliminate all teen dating violence, it will go a long way in creating youth and adults with a healthy sense of self, and care and respect for others.

Statistics tell us that one in three teens will be the victim of some type of physical, sexual or emotional abuse in a dating relationship. Sadly, only 33 percent of teens experiencing this will talk to someone about what’s going on. This can at least partially be attributed to the fact that 81 percent of parents don’t believe teen dating violence will be an issue for their children. While none of us want to think about our kids being hurt, acknowledging the possibility and doing the preventive work from a young age is how we build strength, resiliency and well-being for those closest to our hearts!